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Spending Money in Las Vegas – Eat, Play, Sleep?

I’m heading to Las Vegas this month for a mini-weekend getaway (pulling kind of a #8). Las Vegas has so much to offer tourists - whatever you like, you can probably get it in Sin City. But if your budget is not unlimited, you’ll have to choose what’s on the top of your priority list. So what do you spend your money on? Do you like to eat (try out new restaurants and buffets), play (gambling & shows) or sleep (hotels)?

Eat

I had a few friends who went to Vegas to specifically have dinner at Bouchon at the Venetian. With entrees hovering around the $30-$40 range, it’s the place for folks who like to eat! There are great restaurants inside all the casinos – in fact, I’d say Las Vegas has highest concentration of high-end restaurants all along one street. Where else can you walk from Tau to Guy Savoy to Nobu in less than 10 minutes? But even for someone who loves food as much as I do, I can’t bring myself to shell out the big bucks. I love food, but I feel that I can get better food, for cheaper, in Southern California than I can in Las Vegas. When I travel, I like to try the local specialities of the place , but there’s nothing that particularly pulls my attention to Las Vegas. Or rather, because of my budgetary concerns I refuse to let myself be swayed! So perhaps I’m just a fox crying sour grapes!

Play

If you want to party it up, Las Vegas is the place to be. I was comparing notes with a friend who goes to Vegas quite often about what we like to do and how much we spend, etc. It turns out that she usually stays at Imperial Palace, whose location on the Strip and price outshine its amenities. But that’s OK, because she spend only a few hours in her hotel room while she’s in town. The rest of the time she is dancing up a storm at all the hottest clubs. Cover charges and drinks range from $20/entrance to $60/entrance. If you want bottle service, that can set you back $1,000-plus. If you are a group of girls, my friend has informed me, you can into clubs free or for a discounted rate.

Sleep

me as old lady Spending Money in Las Vegas   Eat, Play, Sleep?So if I don’t spend my money on food or entertainment, what DO I spend on? Apparently, I am an 80-year-old stuck in a twentysomething’s body, because more than anything else a nice hotel to rest in is my priority #1. Las Vegas hotels give you the biggest bang for your buck. Because they can count on gaming revenue, the 5-star and 4-star hotels are often cheaper than comparable hotels in any other area. As long as I don’t go during New Year’s Eve or Super Bowl Sunday, the prices are usually very reasonable.

Case in point: the Four Seasons in Las Vegas cost $234/night for a Superior Room on a weekend in April, but the Four Seasons in Santa Barbara cost $605/night for a Superior Room on the same weekend! (Now you understand why we are high-tailing it out of Santa Barbara right after the wedding reception).

So that’s what I spend most of my money on in Las Vegas – the hotel. The other things – eat and play, I try to do on the cheap. We walk around taking in the night lights.  I’ve wanted to see a Cirque du Soleil number but never could pluck down the money for tickets. Instead, we watch the free pirate show at Treasure Island. We try to fill up on a buffet and then have dinner at mid-priced restaurants such as Noodles in Bellagio, where we can get a big steaming bowl of beef noodles for $10/person. When we lounge in the hotel room, it’s truly enjoyable. I watch HGTV, take naps, hang out in the casino for a little bit of slot machine action before we go back to the comfort of our room and lounge all over again.

When I compare notes with my friends, many times we spend about the same. I may sleep on expensive sheets, another friend will have seen Cirque du Soleil, and another have sampled the finest meals at all the restaurants. That’s what’s so great about personal finance – different strokes for different folks!icon smile Spending Money in Las Vegas   Eat, Play, Sleep?

What you go to Las Vegas, what’s your spending priority? Eat, play, or sleep? (Or are you a high-roller that goes all out on all 3 elements?)

  • Michelle - I'm about all 3! When I go to Vegas this summer, thankfully there are a lot of us to split the costs. ReplyCancel

  • ShoppingtoSaving - I like to spend on entertainment and food! The hotel is important too but I like to look for cheaper hotels. ReplyCancel

  • Don@MoneyReasons - Sadly, I've never been to Vegas…

    My some friends go every year though for a few days and love it. Who knows what they do…

    Someday, I'm going to have to go and just let it all soak in!

    Reading your site, makes me want to travel more :) ReplyCancel

  • StackingCash - Born and raised here since 1972, I've seen Las Vegas grow. Because I live here and don't party, I eat :) Like you said there are way too many high end restaurants for my limited budget, but I do try some every now and then. Yelp helps a lot, but lately I find it is becoming overhyped often setting high expectations for many restaurants letting me down. People need to stop giving out 5 stars all the time! However I would like to recommend Firefly on Paradise Road for some yummy spanish tapas (bacon wrapped, goat cheese and almond stuffed dates!) and sangria. Another favorite is Raku on Spring Mountain for some yummy Japanese "tapas." Next door is the yummy Monta, raman noodle house with some unbelievable char-siu. For steak houses, I only go to Texas de Brazil or Fogo de Chao nowadays. Fogo de Chao offers lunch for $26.50 on the weekdays!

    I can't wait till we can go to San Francisco again, your food is better :)
    ReplyCancel

    • @mealplanrescue - As a former Vegas resident I was going to recommend Firefly, but you beat me to it. I think the pitchers of blood orange mojitos and reasonably priced tapas and drinks are the main reason I make the trek back to visit. More so than seeing family! ReplyCancel

  • Newlyweds ona Budget - my husband and i went to vegas a few months after we got married, and we spent most of our budget on food. we're big on food, apparently. i would never consider paying for a higher end hotel because we just don't spend that much time in the room. ReplyCancel

  • jeff sustainlifeblog - when im in vegas, I usually spend more money on eating – there's not the high quality places to eat in wyoming (the part that I live in, anyway) ReplyCancel

  • Bryan - When I go to Vegas, it is primarily to gamble, although I usually try to take in at least one show. Because of the focus on gambling, I'm happy to stay off the strip (I got on a mailing list for the Orleans that sends me free rooms every couple months, and I also like to stay in Old Vegas). The blackjack limits on the Strip are more expensive, so I'm happier to play at other tables where the minimums aren't so high.

    I definitely feel you on the clubbing portion. Being 29, married, and not much of a dancer makes trying to get into clubs not hold much appeal for me. As a general rule, I resent places that charge me a fee in order for them to "let" me inside where I can overpay for drinks. Having said that, I did pay the fee to get into the ice bar (whatever it's called) in that shopping complex by the Luxor. Though I should have realized it before, you basically just sit in the cold and have a drink; I wasn't especially impressed (it might have been more fun if it were bigger, but the ice room you go into is pretty small). ReplyCancel

  • Tyrone Biggums - I prefer to spend my money on all the great restaurants there. I also end up spending money on shows and nice hotels. For a family member's Bachelor Party, we once stayed in the Rain Man Suite at Caesars Palace for about 80% off list price (due to comps from one player). Now THAT was a luxury experience! ReplyCancel

  • budgetingbabe - I used to REALLY know how to do Vegas on a budget. First, I lived by buffets. I think I would go back to Vegas for the buffets alone. Second, stay at an 'average' hotel off the strip… one that you can walk to the strip easily, but just one block off will save you loads of money. OR, stay at a hotel that's not super trendy. For instance, we got great rates staying at Harrah's. I'm sure if you do hotwire.com you can find a great rate, too, closer to your trip. I never shop in Vegas. I do a lot of walking around. And finally, the gambling… my boyfriend is a big fan of sports books – he wakes up, places his bets, then is free to sight-see all day until it's time to collect in the evening. I kind of like roulette, but I don't play a ton. I just play until I run out of my pre-set gambling budget. Or, if I'm winning, I put my original bet to the side and only play with my winnings – that way I don't really lose anything, I'm just playing on borrowed money. The shows out there are generally overpriced, I've seen a few but you can see them in your home city (if you live in a big city).

    But, that was my plan like 10 years ago, before I started doing more active vacations. If I went today, I think I'd definitely try to go to Red Rocks along with the gambling, eating, and tanning :) ReplyCancel

  • Squirrelers - Absolutely all 3!

    Having said that, I will only gamble a limited amount. I'm past the days of thinking I can make money there – it won't happen. Just a very small amount considered as entertainment that you are ok losing, and that's enough.

    The food is often great, and it's a part of the overall draw. I've had it where I've paid $50 for one person, down to $4.95 for a steak/salad/potato/drink meal (which was, believe it or not, very good!). Buffets can be hit and miss, but I've hit two that were over $25 per person if I recall, and were truly excellent. Lesser buffets can be awful. Anyway, food in Vegas is great if you go the right places. Fortunately, there are so many places, that it's hard to avoid good food :)

    As for sleep….I'm not sacrificing it any more! If on vacation, I'd like to get good sleep – even in Vegas!

    I've taken day trips or 1/2 day trips out of the city, to places like Lake Mead, Hoover Dam, Mt Charlston, Death Valley, etc. The outdoors can be underrated in the Vegas area. ReplyCancel

  • Alex - Every time I am in Vegas I spend much too much money on all 3 :(. It's not cheap, but it's a good time every time :) ReplyCancel

  • belowhermeans - I highly recommend Wicked Spoon inside the Cosmopolitan Hotel (next to the Bellagio). The whole hotel is gorgeous but the Wicked Spoon is a reasonably priced all you can eat buffet with food that's actually really delicious. I think it's more expensive for brunch than the other meals. Have fun! ReplyCancel

  • structured - Depending on what kind of experience you want, and your budget, Las Vegas has a heck of a lot to offer in terms of hotels. But the big question is, how do you get situated in a Las Vegas hotel that suites your needs, and not get ripped off by that hotel? I use the words “ripped off” because there is a huge fluctation in prices during the week at most hotels, for the EXACT same room. ReplyCancel

  • Sam A. - No doubt you have to really budget and plan out your weekends. I find sometimes the best way to save on a hotel, although somewhat uncomfortable, is splitting with your friends. I find even hotels like Bally's, PH or just one that is reasonably priced and still on the strip can allow you to maybe enjoy one of the other areas a bit more. My (college) budget/strategy has served me well over the last year after all if you do Vegas right you won't be spending too much time in your room anyway. ReplyCancel

  • Janet - My spending priority was none of the three mentioned.

    My priority during the trip was to explore Chinatown and see how they celebrated Chinese New Year, get some impressions of Las Vegas, visit some art galleries on Charleston Street and just be an observer about how this city serves its residents (inspired by a book I read recently by Jane Jacobs "Death and Life of Great Cities." Bloomberg BusinessWeek wrote an article featuring some of the art galleries in the big hotels and near Charleston Street. Their arts district has really grown with some interesting industrial and fine art at the same time. I stopped into a Chinese noodle shop for lunch and then spent the rest of the afternoon taking photos, talking to people at the bus stop (best deal for staying off the strip is the Deux bus) and listening to people's impressions.

    So my 'biggest' spending was to go clubbing at Marquee to see Kaskade. I spent $40 on the ticket not including drinks. I'm probably the lone voice who stayed at Hostel Cat (went for a weekend trip) – it's close to the Strasophere and Rio so it's off the strip near Charleston Blvd (the new arts district). I also like staying at hostels if they are clean and located in a decent location. It gives me an opportunity to hear people's observations and stories about what brought them to Vegas. Since I was there just for one night and had evening plans to go clubbing at Marquee spending a lot on lodging wasn't important for me.

    I posted a set of photos from my weekend trip to Las Vegas here -http://janetp.posterous.com/several-shades-of-sin-city ReplyCancel

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